Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Reivew: Biomarkers - The 10 Keys to Prolonging Vitality

By William Evans
Published August 1992
304 pages

I've briefly discussed this book before, in a blog post about other blog posts about this book. Whew! Here is that prior post.

This book is primarily aimed at the 40+ population. The book centers on 10 "biomarkers" that you can alter through your own efforts, thus effectively dialing back your age. These biomarkers are:

1) Your Muscle Mass
2) Your Strength
3) Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
4) Your Body Fat Percentage
5) Your Aerobic Capacity
6) Your Body's Blood-Sugar Tolerance
7) Your Cholesterol/HDL Ratio
8) Your Blood Pressure
9) Your Bone Density
10) Your Body's Ability to Regulate Its Internal Temperature

The first four, collectively, are considered the most important. They are intertwined - increasing your muscle mass will help your strength and vice-versa, both will increase your BMR, and change your body composition and thus lower your body fat percentage.

The book deserves a lot of respect for its emphasis on the ability to halt the "normal" effects of aging on fitness. Your strength, aerobic capacity, muscle size, etc. do not need to drop precipitously. They don't need to drop much at all - provided you are willing to keep exercising and stay active, and eat a healthful diet.

The book goes on to detail how you can check your relative level in those biomarkers, and then recommends one of three levels of training depending on how low you scored.

Exercise selection is bodypart-heavy - curls for the arms, for example, and leg extensions for the legs. They don't recommend squats or deadlifts, multi-joint exercises (except for pushups) or similar movements. The good part is the rep range is fairly low, because you are expected to indirectly test your 1 rep max and then work at 80% of that one-rep max. Not only that, but you are expected to - gasp! - increase the weight substantially. They advise a starting lifter with a one-rep max of 25 pounds to get adjustable weights up to 65 pounds, because you are expected to improve at least 150% during the course of their beginner program.

In addition, you'll train aerobically, both steady-state - to burn some calories and get the benefits of a steady, elevated heart rate on your aerobic capacity - and intervals. The intervals (in the form of HIIT) are there to increase your lactic acid threshold and strength. The authors emphasize that each of these is a useful component - HIIT is the only way to increase that lactic acid threshold, but there are benefits to a steady higher-heart rate exercise on recovery capacity. They also keep the HIIT out of the program until you've gotten a base of strength and aerobic capacity, since it's quite strenuous.

The lifting advice is similarly safety-conscious - slow reps, controlled lifting, careful increases of the weight, no holding your breath, etc.

Diet is badly out of date. It has some great advice - increasing macronutrient intake by eating more, better food, not by supplementation, for example. Or the emphasis on sufficient protein and excellent advice on pre-workout nutrition (not so much sugar, to avoid a hypoglycemic reaction and sudden fatigue). But so much of it shows its age. The food intake breakdowns are 60% carbs, 10-20% protein (no more than 20%), no more than 30% fat (and try to limit it as much as possible). The "fat makes you fat" myth is repeated here, as well. It's a painful chapter to read 20 years on.

Content: 3 out of 5. The material is dated, which makes some it inaccurate or less useful than it could be. It would have been a solid 4 or 5 back in 1992!
Presentation: 3 out of 5. The presentation is equally dated - line drawings instead of pictures, charts that aren't easy to read or use, etc.

Overall: At this late date, this is mostly skippable. The 10 biomarkers are explained well enough in the updated article (linked above), and enough of the book has been proven incorrect to make the rest a spotty read. You are better off with a full-body compound exercise-heavy training plan and a different diet, but the biomarkers you'll want to monitor are unchanged.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this review, Peter! I feel less pressured to get a copy in a big hurry. I'll probably try to pick one up next time I'm in the US.



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